Nick Saban suggests ideas to eliminate the mass exodus of college football underclassmen


For the last two years, the number of underclassmen declaring for the NFL Draft has drastically increased. Depending on how you view it, it may be a disturbing trend. A record 98 players declared for this year’s draft, up from 73 in 2013, 65 in 2012, 56 in 2011 and 53 in 2010.

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Nick Saban says that to counter the underclassmen heading to the draft early, something has to change. So, Saban offered a solution to a perceived problem. He offered that only players with a third-round grade and higher should be invited to the NFL Combine, and that underclassmen should be able to compete in a mini-combine to get a more accurate draft grade projection before they declare, as opposed to after, according to via Sirius XM.

“The way it’s going right now, I don’t think the NFL really wants all these guys coming out for the draft. They know they can develop better in college if they stay and play more, unless they’re going to be high draft picks,” Saban said. “It’s difficult for them to develop players the way they practice now, so if a player’s not a high pick, it’s much more difficult for them to develop as an NFL player. I even made the point that if we’re not going to do something like (an underclassman combine), maybe if a guy doesn’t have at least a top-three-round grade, you don’t even invite him to the combine.

“More guys go down at the combine than go up, because they’re not as fast,” Saban added. “And they don’t have a very good feel in comparison to all the other competition in the draft at their position. And when they come to that realization, it’s too late, the way we do it now.”

Saban has been criticized for bringing ideas to the table that would benefit his team, but this may benefit college football in general.

This year’s NFL Combine featured 355 hopeful players; only 254 of those will be drafted. Some will sign free agent contracts. Others, well, will have to find another solution.

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Having a mini-combine series after bowl games and prior to the deadline to declare for the NFL Draft could be a possible solution to the perceived problem. Scouts, coaches and GMs could put their eyes on the underclassmen and get a better sense of a draft projection before the declaration deadline.

It probably still wouldn’t stop players like Vinnie Sunseri or Jeoffrey Pagan, two of Alabama’s underclassmen who are mid- to late-round picks, who declared early because of past knee injuries. Those players will always declare; however, it could cut down on the number of players who are truly torn between leaving and staying.

Photo Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports



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  • When it comes the point where college athletes are paid, I think the longer a player stays, the higher premium they should get. It might influence some of the tweeners and later projected underclassmen to stay.

    • Look moron, with Title IX in place, if they pay football players, they’ll have to pay the golf team and the water polo team as well. It’s not gonna happen. It would bankrupt most of the college football programs outright. As it stands, only a dozen or so programs are turning a profit.

      • Exactly right Natty. Here are some other other interesting situations where people get something of great value but no cash changes hands. 1. young people live with their parents and love is exchanged as value. 2. people play in a band or choir that add value to a community or a segment of the community and the experience is exchanged instead of cash even though valuable entertainment or a collection plate get passed. 3. People go to the share picking strawberry patch every year and provide some labor and go home with something healthy to eat. People go fishing but turn most of their fish loose because it’s good for the environment and other fisherman. Life has to be more than the cash marketplace. Institutions of higher learning have to be more than the cash marketplace. Athletic competition and teamwork and representing your college community/alma mater are aka college football, are by definition, far greater than the marketplace. If we really need two professional football league then go back to the NFL and the AFL. It a young person can’t go straight to the pro level in any profession, it’s highly likely that they don’t have a ton of other life skills they need yet either. If college educations are not great values then why are millions and millions of non-athletes standing in line with cash in their hands to become part of these communities where they get zero pay or recognition for being there.

  • Maybe Coach Saban should propose another back door clock change in the name of player safety. He doesn’t have to recruit the kids that are projected to leave early.

    • Shit4LifeLLC. Perfect name for you….

      • Natty, this is an exchange of ideas, you have some good ideas on occasion. If you understand anything about football however then you know you can’t be on the blog team and call the other writers names. If you have to keep calling people names could you change your name to something that looks like a different state abbreviation?

  • Let any athlete go pro anytime they want and let them stay eligible for college football till they play in their first pro game. Penalize college programs by reducing scholarships 1 for 1 whose graduates don’t get real jobs within 1 year of playing their last college football program, or enroll in graduate school. Always look for ways to divide the two concepts, pro vs college.

  • Sounds like Little Nicky Satan wants to keep his players longer and not let them go earn their money. Sounds more like a lawsuit to me.

  • Nick Saban definitely has his priorities on the well-being of his players in this instance. It’s not like he is hurting for talent. He wants to make sure that the players that he coaches don’t end up back on the streets or in bad financial situations from which they come. Saban can replace many of these kids that see dollar signs and are anxious to go after big money before they are ready, but not only can spending more time as college players hone their football skills and see their value increase when they finally enter the draft – they get to spend more time in college becoming educated young men and more qualified for the “real world.”

    • I wholeheartedly agree with you. People who bad-mouth Saban are likely only aggravated by the success of the Alabama program. Too many young men leave college before they are ready to play in the NFL. LSU has recently been hurt badly by early-outs. While recruiting is aided by the obvious success brought about through both the talent and coaching, most players need the added training accomplished through staying in school. In addition, they need the college degree that can prepare them for life after football.

      • In the universe of making society and college football better. Lets consider every idea on it’s merit. It’s a waste of time to question the motive. If there is a better way then just suggest it, and explain why it’s a better idea.

  • It’s a tough call. On one hand, I think players should be able to make the decision, whether it’s stupid or not. On the other hand, some of these kids that leave early might as well go home and start pumping gas now because after they blow through the league minimum for a rookie after being cut, they’ll have nothing and, most importantly, won’t have a college degree.
    I still believe Saban, first and foremost, has the success of his football team at heart, but at least the side effects would benefit the players themselves.

  • It’s not often an Auburn fan likes something Saban has said, but I do agree with him here. It is becoming a huge problem in college football all around. Not just at Alabama or in the SEC. Lots of players that aren’t near ready go ahead and declare. And as Dawg780 said, most of these end up getting the league minimum, buying a nice fancy car, and having a few bucks left for dinner at the Waffle House. Another solution I believe would be something worth looking into would be the NFL teams paying back the colleges for those athlete’s last year of schooling that they passed up on. When kids are made offers, they are given a 4 year scholarship. And by leaving in three years, that is cheating the Univeristy. I understand in some cases it is a smart decision for some. No doubt about it Julio Jones should have left early. But most cases aren’t that way.

  • He got mad because some of his underclassmen declared this year that he thought should not have and it screwed up his recruiting plan. He’s a control freak and everyone knows that college football is the minor league for the NFL.

    • Come on, even an Auburn fan can admit that Saban is right on the money here. He isn’t even suggesting anything that would interfere with an athlete’s decision to declare or not. His ideas are all about helping them be informed about where they will end up if they DO declare, without having to sacrifice their chance at more college ball. I don’t ever have a lot of good things to say about Saban but I actually do respect his opinion and ideas on this subject.

    • Screwed up his recruiting plans? What a joke. Saban still had the#1 recruiting class and which included ANOTHER 5 star he flipped from The Awbrens…..

  • this guy’s opinions gets more press than the pope’s. enough! its already ridiculous

    • Ridiculous? Nick Saban offers a solution to a perceived problem that nobody has talked about…and it’s ridiculous press? We cover 14 teams and one league.

      • And you do a great job Jon. Here’s something else Saturday Down South does very well at times: comparing players, schemes, results etc.. among programs. What would such a comparison between Coach Jones, Coach Freeze, and Coach Muschamp look like on this subject? I wonder if Zoucat is asking for more about the 14, I don’t think he’s asking that any single coach’s ideas go un-reported. I question this solution at it’s foundation and have for decades. I’ve heard it discussed among coaches, it’s interesting to hear the actual professionals debate it. Saturday Down South is some of the best sport’s writing in the marketplace, and it attracts some smart readers and bloggers. Thanks to everyone who makes this so good.

  • But Jon is Saban the only coach offering solutions. and I agree with the earlier opinion that all his solution seen to benefit Alabama more than it would almost everybody else

  • that’s the downside of being the team with the best recruiting classes.